Summary: We’ll take a break on the FM website from exploring our future (seen in the seeds of today) to look at our present. We are surrounded by wonders, ranging from the never-before-seen (our monetary and fiscal stimulus policies) to the hail of unexpected technologies. Even in the mundane daily news are things strange and wonderful. Here’s the first in this series, about the dastardly tactic the Democratic Party used against the GOP.
American political parties are like bears fighting in an arena. Two great beasts struggle for dominance. In politics that come from persuading a critical mass of voters in the center to support an agenda launched from the Left or Right. Sometimes the agenda’s change, warping the political structure — as slavery did during the early 19th century. But more often each party crafts strategies that lie on a linear spectrum, although the meaning of Left and Right vary over time — often radically.
Enduring dominance remains almost impossible, with both parties are rooted in durable geographic bases, fundamental ideologies, and powerful interest groups (ie, elements of the 1%). The fantastic victories of FDR were soon followed by the Eisenhower years. The hippie Democratic 1960s were followed by Nixon-Ford-Reagan-Bush. But under Clinton and now Obama the Democratic Party might have found a long-term winning hand. They’ve abandoned their Left base and adopted a lite version of GOP policies. Pretty words and minor policies initiatives keep the Left happy, while they:
- A new record for deporting illegals
- Nominating Republicans as SecDef
- A Wall-Street friendly bank regulatory system
- Expansion of military operations into new lands
- Welfare reform (Clinton and soon-to-be Obama)
- Massive increase in prosecution of whistleblowers
- Spending cuts to pursue a balanced budget (Clinton and soon-to-be Obama)
- Erosion of civil liberties, increased domestic surveillance, greater police powers
- National implementation of Heritage-designed RomneyCare, health care reform done in the interests of drug and insurance companies
And so forth.
How has the GOP responded to this wholesale adoption of its policies? To his national security policies: strong praise (more than Obama got from the Left), criticism for not going enough. To his domestic policies: condemnation as socialistic. But the major response has been a shift to the Right, into madness.
The GOP responded by shifting Right. They adopted extremely conservative policies, most of which have little public support (eg, cutting Social Security and Medicare). This critically weakened Romney’s candidacy, especially forcing him to minimize exposure of VP-candidate Ryan — who repeatedly reminded Americans about elements of the GOP platform that Romney prefered remain hidden.
The GOP also responded by personalizing politics by demonizing Obama. He’ not a natural-born American. An atheist. A secret Moslem. Radical anarchist socialist, probably anti-American. None of these have the smallest basis in reality, which forced Romney to run with his political base acting as an anchor preventing lift-off.
Whatever the factors driving this response, the response has been an accelerating loss of support. But the GOP faces a serious challenge. The Democratic Party has stolen its thunder, challenging its group identity. Maintaining group identify — and drawing lines between us and the neighbors — is a primary task for a group. Israel has survived for three thousand years largely due to its fantastic cohesion (where are the Amalekites, and the other tribes of 2nd century BC Palestine?). They did so by effective delineation of the group’s boundaries through policies such as restrictive dietary laws, circumcision, penalties against exogamy.
Unfortunately American political parties do not have such clear lineaments. Our society is too turbulent, with each generation adopting new careers, moving, intermarrying, and reacting against its parents. Also, the narrow range of acceptable political thought in America (compared to elsewhere, especially Europe) makes group cohesion an eternal challenge.
In the 1990s the leaders of the Democratic Party made a discovery of the kind that changes the fate of nations: the Left was impotent in America. Lost in fantasy, susceptible to myths, focused largely of policies of little interest to the 1% (who don’t care who screws whom, what paper the government issues on such things, or the treatment of the proles’ spawn). Some trivial (to the 1%) social policies, reams of pretty words, and the Left remains quiescent if not happy. Neoliberal pundits like Ezra Klein and Matthew Yglesias give a hip gloss to Obama’s policies, and allow the Left to preen itself as smarter than the Right. Meanwhile a New America is constructed under their noses by the new Center-Right majority.
And so America evolves, unseen by its citizens. American history has seen many strange things, but few (none?) stranger than this wonderful dance. Let’s sing our new national anthem!
For More Information
Posts on the FM website about politics. Also see
Some posts about the Republic Party:
- The evolution of the Republican Party has shaped America during the past fifty years, 8 May 2010
- Will people on the right help cut Federal spending?, 19 June 2010
- Conservatives oppose the new START treaty, as they opposed even the earlier version negotiated by Ronald Reagan, 24 July 2010
- Why do Rep Ryan and the Republicans want to gut America’s military defenses?, 14 April 2011
- A modern conservative dresses up Mr. Potter to suit our libertarian fashions, 17 November 2011
- Ron Paul’s exotic past tells us much about him, the GOP, libertarians – and about us, 27 December 2011
- The key to modern American politics: the Right-Wing Id Unzipped, 15 February 2012
- Why Republicans Need Remedial Math: Their Budget Plans Explode the Deficit, 16 March 2012
- What every American must know about the Republican Party, 16 October 2012
- Let’s list the GOP’s problems. They’re all easily solvable, 12 November 2012
- The Republican Party is like America, and can quickly recover it strength, 14 November 2012